METRIC Interview

In hot anticipation of the upcoming METRIC + Stars show at Prospera Place on November 12, I’m just getting off the phone with METRIC’s Jimmy Shaw. How we managed to nail down 15 minutes for an interview with multiple award nominated/award winning Canadian indie rock royalty may never be fully known to me. Both METRIC and Stars are two of my very favourite bands. Not favourite Canadian bands, favourite band bands. In the world. While my inner fan-boy rages inside I attempt to remain cool and collected as we discuss METRIC’s latest departure from the guitar-driven sound of previous albums to a more synth-filled concept for “Synthetica.”

“It’s something that just happened.” Shaw begins, “Setting up the studio in the beginning, I just sort of started finding all these crazy synths.” Where normally they would start to flesh out a song by grabbing a guitar or bass, he’d head into the control room, a place he dubbed, “Synth World.” To me it sounds like a magical world where TRON rides by on a Light Bike, contributing chords where he can. “I have a more difficult time writing on guitar, it quickly becomes referential.”

As a band, METRIC is one of a growing number of indie bands that broke into the mainstream without compromising their artistic integrity along the way. From personally mailing out each CD in the beginning to Instagram-ing the location of free show tickets these days. “As a band I think we’re fascinated by what’s possible. We’ve always been very interested in growth and development, I think we get bored easily.” Always trying new things and moving forward, METRIC has a hard time standing still.

“Touring is huge. I consider the truest form of music to be playing in front of someone else. It’s so important.” I mention to Shaw that 9 years ago my friends were going to METRIC shows in the Okanagan so often that I thought they were a local band. He laughs, “I heard stories when I was younger… …bands would play 325 shows a year and that’s just the way that it was. It’s inspiring to me.” Shaw seems convinced that METRIC’s crazy tour schedule has contributed a large part to the band’s current level of recognition and it’s hard to disagree. Their energy seems limitless.

It’s on this note—intensely fast-paced touring and a meteoric rise over the last few years—I’m reminded of Emily Haines’ line on ‘Breathing Underwater.’ “Is this my life?” I ask if it ever feels like they’ll wake up and this will all have been a dream? “I hope it wasn’t all a dream! But there are definitely elements of it where it seems like that.” Shaw goes on, “A couple weeks ago we played at Radio City Music Hall, Lou Reed came onstage with us and we played ‘The Wanderlust’ and transferred into the Velvet Underground’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes,’ and it’s then when I’m thinking ‘I can’t believe this is my life.'” I remark it truly sounds like a dream you’d never want to wake up from. He laughs again, “Then there’s those times you’re in a club in St. Louis and they’re fire-bombing for roaches and you can’t sound check for two hours and you’re thinking ‘is THIS my life?'” Shaw talks about being in-studio with Haines and really coaxing her on that line. “It’s so universal, you know? There’s so many times where you think ‘is this really my life?’ Maybe you’re on a yacht with Rhianna, or you realize you have 7 kids and hate your husband.”

I ask about the future, if they’ve even had time to think about what’s next. Shaw paints an idealistic image for me, they’re swimming in the ocean in the middle of being on tour (another ‘is this my life?’ moment) and he asked Haines if she had any plans over Christmas. “She started off saying she had a couple songs she wanted to record and as we kept talking we planned out the next three years of METRIC, the sound of the new album, the release strategy, all of it. I said to her, ‘Haines, you realized I only asked you what your plans were over Christmas?'” They can’t even talk about taking a week off. I’m assured this is typical Emily/Jimmy behaviour and the amount of METRIC albums in my iTunes attests to this. “Whether or not that album or those plans pan out only time will tell.”

I’m feeling really good at this point, we’re nearing the end of my interview time and one question seems more important to ask here than any other. As a starving artist who works with starving artists (whether they be musicians, painters, graphic, video or other) I ask what’s one piece of advice they have for all of us. “It’s strange, people keep asking me that, which must mean we obviously did something right along the way. I think at the end of the day, we followed our own intuition. We followed our own path and we didn’t listen to anyone who said ‘if you want to be successful you have to do this.’ Some people sign a big record deal and end up being miserable touring for 5 years and seeing all their friends in indie bands, all they want is two hit songs and to cash out. Or vice versa! There is no right or wrong and there’s never been a time where there’s less right and wrong than ever before. In some ways it’s scary but in some ways it’s way more open. Stay true to yourself.”

Watch the video for ‘Youth Without Youth’

Catch METRIC at Prospera Place on Monday November 12th, 2012.

Where: Prospera Place (1223 Water Street, Kelowna)
When: Monday, November 12th – 8:00 PM
How Much: Varying
Tickets: Ticketmaster
For: Everyone


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